Hollywood is bracing for another scary ride at the box office over the Halloween weekend, with analysts predicting lackluster returns from new movies as the holiday weighs down ticket sales.
No new wide releases are expected to break the $10-million mark over the weekend, despite the star power of Bradley Cooper as an arrogant chef in “Burnt” and Sandra Bullock as a high-powered political operative in “Our Brand Is Crisis.”
That probably will leave holdovers “The Martian” from 20th Century Fox and “Goosebumps” from Sony Pictures to battle for the No. 1 spot.
The movie industry never expected much luck with Halloween falling on a Saturday. People are more likely to be roaming the streets with kids in search of candy or going to house parties than trekking to the local cinema.
“One of the scariest things about Halloween for the movie business is when it lands on a Saturday,” said Paul Dergarabedian, a media analyst with entertainment data firm Rentrak. “If you’re at a Halloween party, you’re not going to the movies.”
The lull comes after the box office suffered a weak showing from new movies last weekend, as “Steve Jobs,” “The Last Witch Hunter,” “Jem and the Holograms” and “Rock the Kasbah” all posted disappointing results.
Things will pick up in November when the new James Bond movie “Spectre,” from Sony and MGM, hits theaters, along with Fox’s “The Peanuts Movie."
Of the studios’ new offerings this week, “Burnt” looks like it might have the most pull, according to people who have reviewed pre-release audience surveys. The movie, which cost about $20 million to make, is expected to gross $7 million to $9 million in ticket sales in the U.S. and Canada through Sunday.
The movie’s distributor, Weinstein Co., is hoping the R-rated comedy will attract women and foodies to the multiplex.
“Our Brand Is Crisis,” in which Bullock’s character is enlisted to help an embattled South American presidential candidate, is expected to gross $6 million to $8 million. That would mark another low turnout for Time Warner Inc.-owned studio Warner Bros. after high-profile flops like “Pan."
Still, Warner Bros. reduced the risk to its bottom line with co-financing from Participant Media and RatPac-Dune Entertainment.
The two movies face similar problems at the box office, besides the unfortunate timing of Halloween. Neither have robust support from movie critics, and they both target sophisticated adult audiences already well served by films like “The Martian."
“The audience is being fragmented,” Dergarabedian said.
Not helping the overall box-office picture is “Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse,” an R-rated horror-comedy full of raunch and splatter, likely to clock in at $4 million or less. It cost an estimated $15 million.
“Scouts Guide” is part of an experiment by Paramount Pictures to bring movies to home video more quickly than usual, and many major theater chains are refusing to show it because they view such moves as a threat to their business model.
AMC Theatres and Canada-based Cineplex Entertainment agreed to show it, but others including Regal Cinemas and Cinemark have refused.
The real test for the modestly budgeted movie will how much money it makes once it hits the home video market.
That leaves the four-week-old hit “The Martian” to face off with “Goosebumps,” which could benefit from its spooky themes. “The Martian,” which has grossed $166 million domestically so far, was No. 1 last weekend. “Goosebumps” landed in second place, and has taken in $44 million in North America since it opened Oct. 16.
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